Nationals

P Colquitt a bright spot for Chiefs

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P Colquitt a bright spot for Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) In what will come as a huge relief to worried, frustrated, restive and angry Kansas City fans, Dustin Colquitt sounds like he has no desire to leave the Chiefs.

If Colquitt does sign a new contract, it also will be one less criticism that embattled general manager Scott Pioli has to dodge.

Colquitt has become a deadeye master of directional punting, providing the Chiefs with hundreds of yards of valuable field position. He's clearly one of the finest punters in the NFL as well as one of the finest players, period, on an underachieving Chiefs roster.

``I'm sure we're working on it,'' Colquitt said in an interview with The Associated Press. ``Kansas City has been a great town for my family.''

Freed of nagging injuries, the 30-year-old Colquitt is enjoying perhaps his best season, even though the 1-5 Chiefs skidded into their bye week on the heels of one of their worst stretches in decades.

Colquitt has always been a fan favorite. He has also forged a relationship with owner Clark Hunt. And while not saying for sure that he plans to stay with the team that drafted him in the third round in 2005, he did make it clear he loves Kansas City.

``The Hunt family has been just fantastic owners,'' Colquitt said. ``They've turned into family just because of me knowing their kids now. I have kids, so we have a lot of similarities. And me and Scott have a good relationship. There's no friction there.''

In last week's 38-10 thumping at Tampa Bay, Colquitt was about the only man in a Chiefs uniform to do his team proud.

He unloaded a 62-yard punt in the first quarter, then finessed a 38-yarder all the way to the 1. Later, he dropped a 50-yarder on the 2 before drilling a 45-yarder that was downed on the 6.

Then in the fourth quarter, with the Chiefs backed up inside their own 20, Colquitt swung his strong left leg through the ball and boomed it 60 yards to the Tampa Bay 21.

After six games, Colquitt has had 16 punts downed inside the opponent 20. Only Tim Masthay of Miami has more.

``That's a nice weapon to have,'' coach Romeo Crennel said. ``He does a good job of directional punting. And then the thing he's been doing the last few weeks is in the plus-10 downing area. When a team has to start back there and go the length of the field, you feel better about your odds.''

While he refuses to talk about injuries, it was well known the past few years that Colquitt was hobbled.

``This is the best I've felt in probably about four years,'' he said. ``The big thing is health and getting back to basics.''

Colquitt credits first-year special teams coach Tom McMahon with planting the finer points of directional punting in his head.

``Tom's really challenged me to step up to the plate. There's times I've said, `Man, I don't feel comfortable doing that.' And he'll find something on film and say, `You did it. That's no excuse,''' he said. ``So it's been encouraging for him to come in and say, basically, `Look, if you say you can't, I'm going to find it on film and then you can't say you can't do it anymore.'''

While the Chiefs have stumbled, the punt team has been guilty of only one big blunder. During a lopsided loss to Buffalo, Leodis McKelvin broke loose on an 88-yard touchdown return. But since then, punting has been a big strength for a team eager to have it.

``We had a terrible day at Buffalo, gave up a touchdown, which is inexcusable,'' McMahon said. ``But the best thing about these guys is they look at situations where we have failed, they don't hide from them and they go fix them.''

A third-round pick out of Tennessee in 2005 and the son and brother of other two other NFL punters comprising ``The First Family of Fourth Down,'' Colquitt is making a base salary of $1.8 million with a signing bonus of $480,000.

Never one to draw attention to himself, Colquitt prefers to talk football rather than contract.

``We've had a lot of guys step up,'' he said. ``I realize it starts with me. I've got to hang the ball. I've got to put it on the appropriate place on the field. But our coverage units so far have been great. We cleaned it up after the Buffalo game and it's been gold.''

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3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

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USA TODAY

3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

Nationals fans are teetering on the edge. 

On one hand, the Nats are 3.5 games out of first place after a 10-week span full of injuries and underperformance. The team just acquired All-Star closer Kelvin Herrera, and their 19-year-old left fielder looks like an All-Star already. 

On the other hand, doom is imminent. The Monstars stole Bryce Harper's abilities at some point over the last three weeks, Steven Strasburg can't stay healthy, and the offense is pushing everyone's patience to the limit. 

So who's overperforming? Who's underperforming? Who's out there just trying their very best? LET'S LIST. 

Three Up

1. Juan Soto

Our large young son Juan continues to impress. He's now hitting .325/.411/.602 with a 1.013 OPS in 95 plate appearances over 25 games. That means we're mercifully starting to leave the 'fluky start' narrative behind. He's been the best hitter on the Nationals by a wide margain since he got called up - although that's perhaps more of an indicitment on the rest of the lineup than it is on Soto. Still, in less than a month he's probably earned the starting left field spot for the rest of the summer. Not bad. 

2. Justin Miller

Miller is 31, on his third team in four years, and owns a career ERA north of 4.50. Despite all of this, Miller's been the best reliever in baseball since coming up for the Nats. Of relief pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched (we hear your sample size comment and are not going to acknolwdge it), no one has a better FIP than Miller (0.64). He's striking out over half of the batters he sees and has yet to walk a single person this year. All the elite relief pitchers are already at 30-40 innings pitched, so Miller has a while to go before these stats mean a whole lot. If he stays even 75 percent as good as he's started, the Nats' bullpen looks scary. 

3. Michael A. Taylor

Have yourself a week or two, Michael A.! The centerfielder is slashing .500/.556/.583 over the last 14 days, the first of many "Maybe He Put It Together?!" runs we'll see from him this year. He also has six stolen bases during that span, more than anyone else on the team. His plate discipline has been better over the last two weeks, with a BB% a shade over 11 percent - only behind Juan Soto for highest on the team. Juan Soto, man. 

Three Down

1. Bryce Harper

A couple things here. We'll start with the admission that Bryce Harper is obviously not having a superb year. We've already briefly touched on why looking at only his batting average is a lazy way of judging his season, and we stand by that. With that said - Harper's had a bad season. The last month has been particularly painful. There's no way of dressing up a .189/.278/.400 slashline over the last 30 days. Still, his contact has been as great as his luck terrible - there's a positive regression coming, we promise. 

2. Pedro Severino 

And you think Harper's been slumping?? Over the same 30 days, Severino has hit .098/.179/.115 with a .294 OPS. He's essentially daring the Nats to put together a trade package for JT Realmuto at this point. He has six hits over his last 68 plate appearances and five of them are singles. 

3. Shawn Kelley

Kelley owns a 6.09 FIP and a 4.32 ERA over the last month (10 games, 8.1 innings pitched). He's walking close to nine percent of the hitters he's faced during that time. He has a 12.5 HR/FB over the last month. With the trade for Kelvin Herrera and the sudden emergence of Justin Miller, Kelley's role going forward isn't quite as clear anymore. 

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jerome Robinson

School: Boston College
Position: Shooting guard
Age: 21
Height: 6-5
Weight: 188
Wingspan: 6-7
Max vertical: N/A

2017/18 stats: 20.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.1 bpg, 48.5 FG%, 40.9 3PT% (2.3 3PT/5.7 3PA), 83.0 FT%
Player comparison: Danny Green
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 29th, NBADraft.net 16th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 17th

5 things to know:

*A three-year player at BC, Robinson developed into a big-time scorer before making the leap to the NBA. He averaged 18.7 points as a sophomore and then 20.7 points as a junior while improving his shooting percentages across the board. He went from 42.3 percent from the field as a sophomore to 48.5 in 2017-18.

*Robinson turned himself into an excellent three-point shooter. After shooting just 33.3 percent as a sophomore, he got that up to 40.9 percent as a junior and on 5.7 attempts per game. That trajectory bodes well for Robinson's chances at the next level.

*He has a quick release on his jumper, giving him the ability to be effective on catch-and-shoot plays off screens. Robinson could develop into a reliable scorer who doesn't need the ball in his hands as a primary focus of the offense. He also showed the ability to throw down some powerful dunks and finish with creativity at the rim. He didn't record a vertical leap at the NBA Combine, but playing above and around the rim didn't appear to be a problem in college.

*Though it didn't show in his last season at Boston College, Robinson was adept at forcing turnovers in his first two years. He averaged 1.6 steals per game across his freshman and sophomore seasons and 16 times in his career had three steals or more in a game.

*Questions for Robinson would include his versatility and speed. Some draft evaluators wonder if he will be able to get separation off the dribble at the NBA level. Also, he put up decent rebounding and assists numbers in college but didn't exactly stand out in either category.

Fit with Wizards: Robinson would give the Wizards depth at the shooting guard position and they need that. He could help Bradley Beal pare down his minutes and offer a scoring punch off the Wizards' bench. The Wizards could use a reliable shooter to help space the floor for Kelly Oubre, Jr. and others in the second unit.

The problems with Robinson's fit would be his lack of positional versatility and what appears to be a relatively low ceiling. He's not the freak athlete that some of his counterparts are at shooting guard. If the Wizards are choosing between Robinson and guys like Zhaire Smith and Lonnie Walker IV, they could view the latter two as more enticing because of their potential. Robinson would represent a safer pick while others could pay off big-time and have a greater impact on the franchise in the long-term.

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More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State

For more on the NBA Draft, check out our latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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